Things have been busy in the Giusto kitchen, but that’s hardly an excuse for neglecting to tell you what kind of hooch I’ve been drinking lately. I forgot to mention it in February so consider todays booze/recipe duo my slurry apology.
Our irrational, unpredictable, no-sense-making cluster*ck of a weather system continues to push the limits of my patience. Not because it’s cold, because I’m sick of wearing shoes and eating soup. Last weeks KitchenTunes had me dreaming of warm waves but the winds want to wip, so I’m coping in new ways: Chianti and stolen recipes.
Let’s start with the salad. Pizzeria Toro, new to the downtown Durham circuit, is an overwhelmingly awesome place to grub out on Napolitano style pizzas with toppings both traditional and trendy. The pizza’s great, the drinks are top notch, the antipasti are lipsmacking, but something about their kale salad keeps me going back for more. That sounds hippy as shit, I realize, but it’s rare that a salad sticks with you after 2 hours of pizza, pints and profanity.
The following is my attempt at recreating the dish at home, a great late winter meal coupled with warm bread and plenty of Chianti:
Insalata di Cavolo Nero alla Pizzeria Toro
1 Head Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale, black or dino work as well but the smaller the leaves the better)
2 Red Chiles (serrano or red hot, habanero if you’re feeling nuts)
1/4 Cup Pine Nuts (toasted)
Handful of Italian Olives
Wedge of Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano
1 Lemon, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper for dressing
Start first by slicing your Kale into 1/2″ ribbons, this makes the woody green much easier to eat raw. Add to a bowl and cover with water, the ribbons will float to the top and the dirt will sink to the bottom. Drain, rinse, and dry thoroughly. Add to a large bowl.
Slice your chile into super-thin slices and add to the salad. Toast your pine nuts lightly and add to your salad. Try not to burn them when toasting, it happens to the best of us…
Grate 1/4 cup of the pecorino right onto the salad as though it were pasta, this will act as the salt for the dish.
For the dressing, whisk together the juice of 1 lemon, equal parts extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp of honey, and a lot of cracked black pepper. Add to the salad, toss everything together and allow the salad to sit at room temp for atleast 15 minutes. This helps to soften the kale and take away some of it’s earthy bitterness.
Toss once more before serving, adding the olives and shaving additional Pecorino or Reggiano over the top. Serve with crusty warm bread and….
Product Details: From the province of Chianti in Tuscany. Marked on the bottle with a pink DOCG label and a black label with a rooster insignia. No rooster, no Classico.
Appearance: Not as deep, velvetty red as it’s Barolo or Barbera cousins to the north, Chianti is pale purple with intense clarity and originally bottled in a whicker-wrapped ‘fiasco’. Sadly, that tradition is long gone from the American wine merchant scene, leaving only piss-poor phonies in whicker bottles now.
Aroma: It’s aroma is all it’s own, a unique and bold waft but hard to describe in words. Opening a bottle of Riserva Classico from 2003 or earlier smells like rubbing wine grapes together in your hand. Deep, earthy, and full of the rich fruity pungency of Sangiovese grapes. There’s something almost dry or tongue-snappingy clean to it.
Taste: At it’s youngest, Chianti Classico is uniform, dry, and spicy just like the olive oil of the region. But invest in a Riserva, time to decant and you’ll experience something all-together enlightening. At it’s best, the flavors range from sharp black pepper and muddled fig to black currant, raisin and plum. The variety is it’s signature because each hill, valley, farm and family mixes and ages their Chianti as they see fit. The best way to learn is to just start drinking, so start drinking!
Food Pairings: Follow Tuscan tradition – tagliatelle with boar ragu, bistecca alla fiorentina, ribollita, spinach ravioli in browned butter, minestrone or funghi bruschetta.
Price: Your average, 3-5 year old Classico will cost anywhere from $12-24, but a respectable Classico Riserva for a special occasion could run up to $50. I prefer the $15 bottles for a balance of both age and humility.
Overall: The cyclical trends of wine and food always seem to ignore Chianti. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it’s so well known, that it’s been around since the 1700′s, or people’s poor experiences with lesser impostor Chianti’s. Whatever it is, it’s nonsense, and I hope Chianti’s from smaller family vineyards will become more redolent in the local restaurant scene.
As I learned from my friends and family in Italy so long ago, Chianti is the life-blood of Tuscans and whether it’s a baby or a riserva, a good bottle is enjoyed no matter what the menu – most of all at the end of the night, dipping the remains of crusty bread into small glasses, sopping up every last drop.
Salute e buonappetito!